There is no doubt that Halloween is going to look a little different this year. Typically enjoyed by people of all ages across the Midwest, the beloved fall holiday involves many high-risk activities for spreading viruses like COVID-19.
Traditional trick-or-treating is a prime example. While thousands of children eagerly anticipate the opportunity to scavenge their neighborhoods for free candy, the activity poses many risks. In addition to touching items that have been handled by others, trick-or-treating tends to involve close contact with people outside a child’s immediate family.
As a result, the CDC has discouraged parents and children from participating in standard trick-or-treating. The organization has also advised against engaging in other popular autumn activities, such as hosting or attending indoor costume parties, visiting haunted houses, and going on hayrides with people you don’t live with.
Although reading the list of things people shouldn’t do may be discouraging for Halloween lovers, don’t be too quick to put away your pumpkins. By taking proper precautions, there are several ways you can make the most of spooky season while keeping you and your family safe.
5 Safer Alternatives to Trick-or-Treating
CDC officials recommend some safer alternative activities for celebrating Halloween this year:
- Decorating your space. There is no better way to channel the spirit of this holiday than by surrounding yourself with blood-curdling bits and bobs. Make it a family event by working together while playing some Halloween-themed music.
- Carving pumpkins. Halloween simply isn’t Halloween without a jack-o’-lantern grinning from your doorstep. You can carve your pumpkins inside with members of your household or arrange to carve with neighbors or friends while socially distancing outside.
- Throwing a Halloween-themed movie night at home. Pick out a few films, butter up some popcorn, and bring out the big bowl of (individually wrapped) candy to share with the people in your household. The candy may not be free, but it will taste just as good.
- Participating in a virtual costume contest. Schedule a Zoom call with friends or family members to show off your spook-tacular costumes. Add a competitive element by voting on who you think came up with the best one. Bucky the Badger, anyone?
- Designing a Halloween scavenger hunt around your neighborhood. Instead of going door to door, consider creating a list of things—like bats, witches, and spiders—that kids can look for while you walk around the neighborhood. Remember to stay at least 6 feet away from anyone you encounter.
And for families searching for something more traditional, parents could consider asking a few of their neighbors to participate in an adjusted version of trick-or-treating. Rather than ringing doorbells or grabbing candy from communal bowls, neighbors could set little goodie bags at the end of their driveways for kids to pick up as they pass by.
Though not as safe as some other alternatives, this revised version of trick-or-treating would at least allow for social distancing. However, check your local guidelines to make sure this is something your community is allowed to do.
4 Traffic Safety Measures for Halloween Night
If you and your family decide to participate in a neighborhood scavenger hunt or socially distanced trick-or-treating, there are traffic safety concerns to consider as well.
For example, Halloween is a notoriously dangerous holiday for pedestrians—especially children. According to an analysis by the Washington Post, 54 children died after being hit by a car on Halloween between 2004 and 2018.
Younger children face an even higher risk. A 2019 study conducted by JAMA pediatrics found that children between 4 and 8 years old are 10 times more likely to be killed on Halloween than on other fall evenings.
To minimize your chances of making Halloween even more terrifying, consider the following traffic safety tips:
- Go out together. Parents are strongly advised to accompany young children, who can be difficult for drivers to notice.
- Educate. If older children are going out alone, make sure they understand traffic safety concepts like how to utilize crosswalks, how to know when it is safe to cross the street, and how to remain aware of their surroundings.
- Stay alert. It is crucial for parents and children to pay attention to what is going on around them at all times. If possible, keep your phone in your pocket or bag to maximize your situational awareness.
- Wear reflective tape. Adding some reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags makes it easier for drivers to see both children and adults. This will be particularly important after dark when pedestrians are harder to see.
Halloween Safety Tips for Drivers
Halloween safety tips typically focus on pedestrian behavior. However, drivers need to be aware that there will be more pedestrian traffic on Halloween and should take necessary precautions as well.
For example, not all kids will go to the corner or crosswalk to cross the street. Instead, it is possible a child could dart into the street from between parked cars in the middle of the block. This could spell danger if this happens when a driver is not prepared.
In order to prevent the worst from happening, drivers need to make a concerted effort to maximize their attentiveness behind the wheel. Distracted driving is the leading cause of car accidents in the United States, so eliminating unnecessary distractions—like cell phones—is critical. Drivers should be particularly vigilant between 4:00 and 8:00 p.m.
It is also good practice to drive a little slower than the posted speed limit on Halloween. Your slower speed allows you to respond more quickly if a child surprises you. Additionally, use extra caution while exiting driveways and pulling onto roads. Kids may not be able to anticipate a driver’s intention as well as an adult.
And if you choose to celebrate spooky season with alcohol, please make the responsible decision to sober up before getting behind the wheel. If you need to get home, consider designating a sober driver or calling a car service to help you reach your destination safely.
Even though Halloween may be a little unconventional this year, taking these steps will make for a safer and more enjoyable holiday for everyone.